Tag: David Conwill

Almost a century later, the Model A is still one of the easiest cars there is to own – David Conwill @Hemmings

Almost a century later, the Model A is still one of the easiest cars there is to own – David Conwill @Hemmings

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Great examples are common, and restoring one couldn’t be simpler

While the A started out relatively simple, buyers carried over their accessorization habits from the Model T. Note the running-board luggage rack on the car above and the Moto-Meter temperature gauges on both. Welled fenders were a factory contribution to this craze .Courtesy of the Hemmings archives

The easiest collector cars in the world to own are those you can get the most parts for. You can probably name a lot of them: the ’55-’57 Chevy, the early Mustang, the first-generation Camaro, the Triumph TR6, the MGB, and so on. As grows the hobby, so does that list (as do the criteria for being on it—which now includes complete reproduction steel bodies), but since the beginning, included the 1928-’31 Ford Model A.

The complete history of the Model A as a sensational new car – including its proven durability during the worst of conditions of the Great Depression and World War II, and its popularity as a simple and easily improved used car in the shortage-wracked postwar period – is too detailed to get into here, but suffice it to say that the historical popularity of the A translates to an extremely robust and complete aftermarket still supporting these cars on the eve of their centennial. Even in as-delivered form, the Ford Model A remains an eminently driveable car—married with some improvements developed when it was nearly new, it can traverse virtually any 21st century road with ease.

There are plenty of opportunities to do so, too. Two clubs serve the Model A hobby specifically: The Ford Model A Restorers Club (MARC) and the Model A Ford Club of America (MAFCA). They maintain technical libraries, advisors, and most importantly, communities of enthusiasts with whom to trade ideas, tribal knowledge, parts, and information. Both organizations are variously tolerant of modifications pioneered in the A’s earliest days as a used car, especially when the appearance is kept stock or made to resemble a period speedster or race car.

Many of those changes blend seamlessly into a road-ready car, ideal for participating in tours like those organized by MARC, MAFCA, and the local chapters thereof, plus multi-marque events run by other organizations. Moreover, unless you live in a really congested area, a touring-grade Model A makes a great fair-weather driver for any purpose —assuming your insurance provider and licensing authority agree.

Speedsters and more heavily modified cars will find themselves welcome at other sorts of events, including hill climbs and traditional hot rod gatherings like The Race of Gentlemen. Beware, though: Beyond a certain point, the more heavily modified the engine, the more temperamental it becomes and the shorter its lifespan.

The standard Ford closed body for all years of production was the two-door sedan (spelled Tudor by Ford, to complement its naming the four-door sedans Fordor). It also proved the most popular in original production, with 523,922 built in calendar-year 1929 alone (Ford didn’t track body-style production by model year) and 1,281,112 by the end of ’31 production in early 1932. Most in-demand today are the roadster and coupe bodies. The former is reproduced, and though repair panels are obtainable, no complete closed Model A body is. A late-1928 to 1931 Tudor makes perhaps the ideal Model A owner’s car for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the prospect of extra leg room in the front seats, attractive price point in the current market, and an all-steel body (compared with the wood-framed Fordors, built by outside suppliers). It’s on that specific model that we’ll focus here.

Engine and drivetrain

While it’s a flathead four-cylinder, and parts from the Model A engine have been made to work in the Model T block, there’s not much in common between the 177-cu.in. Model T engine and the 1928-’31 Model A engine, which displaced 200 cu.in. and made 40 hp at 2,200 rpm —twice the T’s 20 hp at 1,600 rpm. Famously, one reason the Model A is often seen wearing a quail radiator mascot is because its abrupt acceleration reminded operators of that bird bursting forth from the underbrush. The four-cylinder retained its reputation for quick starts right up through the V-8 era, when owners of “bangers” preferred to race from a standing or low-speed rolling start (the origin of the drag race) against V-8 owners. The V-8’s longer-legged nature was reflected in the popularity of the greyhound mascot on ’32-’34 Fords.

In its stock form with a heavy flywheel, the Model A engine remains a roadable unit, though it’s hard for most owners of driven cars to resist internal improvements when rebuild time comes along. Upgrades to the oiling system are popular, as are counterweighted Model B crankshafts (which permit a lightened flywheel and installation of a later clutch). Replacement of the poured bearings with modern-type inserts are frequently discussed, but probably overkill on anything but an engine regularly driven hard.

Top-end modifications, including additional carburetors (both stock-style updraft and later-style downdraft), high-compression (this is relative —stock used a 4.22:1 ratio) cylinder heads, high-performance camshafts, and free-flowing exhaust manifolds all exist and are of varying utility depending on the owner’s intended use of a Model A. Some more compression (Ford itself offered a Police head, though aftermarket heads usually boasted a superior chamber design and more compression yet—anything in excess of 6.5:1 is not advised with poured bearings), a distributor incorporating centrifugal advance (stock units are driver-adjusted from the steering wheel—not a situation favored by every modern driver), a Model B-grind camshaft, a downdraft two-barrel carburetor (Stromberg types being a good compromise between period tech, flexibility, and present-day parts availability), and a cast-iron exhaust manifold will give a healthy enough boost to any engine that you may wish to look into some of the brake upgrades discussed below.

Some A owners have gone even further than modifying the factory engine, yet without straying all the way into V-8 territory. More than one Model A has received, complete, the 50-hp four-cylinder engine originally found in a 1932-’34 Ford Model B. Aside from an external fuel pump, the Model B block looks very much like the Model A, yet it hosts oiling improvements and a counterbalanced crankshaft. Opinions diverge on whether the earliest 1932s had the balanced crank, but the real split in desirability seems to stem from Ford’s switch from sweated-on to cast-in counterweights, the latter of which aid immensely in rebuilding.

The Model B engine was originally packaged with a heavily revised transmission. The original Model A unit was scaled down from the big Lincoln transmission in use in the late 1920s — complete with multi-plate clutch. That clutch was soon replaced with a conventional disc unit, but the heavy flywheel and unsynchronized gears remained. When synchromesh was introduced to the marketplace, however, the consumer wouldn’t long stand for the necessity of double-clutching, and lighter flywheels had the added benefit of letting an engine gain rpm faster—though to the detriment of shifting unsynchronized transmissions.

For 1932, the Model B transmission was essentially that of the V-8 car, but in a gear case designed to work with the four-cylinder. In fact, gearsets from Ford passenger cars up through 1948 will fit in the Model B case, though it’s tight. Because the Model A bellhousing also mounts its pedals, many B-powered A’s will have been modified to accommodate the Model A oil pan, bellhousing, and transmission. Alternately, a variety of schemes have been worked up to use Model A pedals with later transmissions, including swaps intended for the Borg-Warner T-5 five-speed, the Ford SROD four-speed, and the 1932-’39 Ford V-8 three-speed.

Transmission choice complicates the rest of the driveline, as Ford cars built through 1948 had their driveshaft enclosed in a suspension member called the torque tube. The Model A axle, though theoretically not as strong as the V-8 units of 1933-’48, will mate with the later Ford transmission without modification to either. Adapters to fit the SROD and certain models of T-5 to the torque tube have been offered, and some enthusiasts choose to switch to an open driveline. That latter option is complicated, however, because the radius rods alone were not designed to deal with the braking and acceleration forces of the rear axle.

The Model A came with a standard gearing of 3.78:1 while V-8-era Ford axles were typically 4.11:1, so swaps to later rear axles are possible but rarely performed unless seeking added strength during a V-8 swap.

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A Safari-style 1962 Chevrolet Corvair would make the perfect Subaru substitute. Here’s how I’d build it. – David Conwill @Hemmings

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The badge says Monza, but I’m thinking more Dakar

It’s got distinctive looks, great traction, and a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. No, it’s not a Subaru Forester—it’s a Chevy Corvair. Old-time Vermonters I keep encountering swear by the little air-cooled Chevrolets as cars that would, Beetle-like, go anywhere in the winter and get home again. The rest of the world sees Corvairs as “the poor man’s Porsche” and, you know, I like Porsches too—providing they’re the safari’d kind.

Safari cars are usually moderately lifted versions of regular street cars with knobby tires, extra lights, skid plates, and whatnot to permit them to go offroad or at least down sketchy, class D fire roads of the type that we have a lot of in the remoter reaches of the Green Mountain State. A safari car is kind of like a Group 11 or Baja Bug, just with any other kind of car than a Volkswagen Type 1.

Corvairs have their own off-road history, having made excursions both through the Darien Gap and into the swamps of Florida back when Chevrolet was pushing them as capable compacts more than sports cars. Since then, however, most builds lean in the direction of emulating the Fitch Sprint or Yenko Stinger SCCA contenders.

Still, there are a lot of Powerglide-equipped Corvairs that will never run with the four-speed cars on an autocross track but could be used for other vehicular adventures. This is a rare (unique?) case of me putting my time and money where my mouth is: I already own a near-identical car, and this is essentially the plan I have for it, though here we’ll take a look at how to safari a 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza listed for sale on Hemmings.com.

Suspension


This is how low a stock ’62 Monza is on undersized, 13-inch tires.
Photo by David Conwill

To start with, don’t imagine trying to replicate the New England Forest Rally in this thing. That’s a whole different car, incorporating a roll cage. For moderate driving, I envision just enough lift to deal with substantial ruts and clear oversized wheels and tires. That’s maybe an inch and a half to two inches over stock.

To accomplish that, the right way is new, taller springs and shock absorbers to match. Those aren’t something available off the shelf for Corvairs because most people want to lower their car or keep it stock height rather than go up. Spring spacers are another option, but kind of weak sauce for something intended as permanent.

It goes without saying that fresh bushings and an in-spec, adjusted steering box are mandatory before any modifications begin. You don’t want to compound deferred maintenance with weird changes.

The biggest weak points in a Corvair for long-term ownership are the rear wheel bearings. The wheel bearing for the swing-axle car was a unique design that interchanges with nothing except the ’61-’63 Pontiac Tempest. Further complicating things, the ’60-’62 design will fit a ’63-’64 car, but the slightly redesigned 1963-type bearing won’t fit a 1960-’62 Corvair. They’re not reproduced and weren’t intended as a serviceable part. The best thing to do, it seems, is to carefully drill a hole in the housing, install a plug (or a Zerk fitting—but some reports indicate that may not allow sufficient flow) and re-lubricate the bearing periodically. Having a useable spare set on the shelf also seems to be a wise mov

​Brakes, Wheels and Tires

Speed is the enemy of brakes. This isn’t a high-speed build. Ergo, it doesn’t need bigger brakes. That’s good because the early model Corvair doesn’t really lend itself to brake upgrades. In the front, it’s simple enough to swap to five-lug disc brakes, but you’re pretty much stuck with four lugs in the rear unless you can dig up and shorten a pair of axles from a Corvair 95 (that’s the van/truck version, which used front suspension more like that of an Impala than the standard Corvair unit).

One upgrade that I do demand and have already installed is a dual-reservoir master cylinder. Losing one of four brake lines shouldn’t mean losing all four brakes!

I’ve never been a fan of 13-inch wheels—probably because I’ve seen too many of them wearing undersized tires. There are better options today for Corvair radial substitutes than there used to be, but 14- and 15-inch wheels are way better supported. My feeling is that a 25.5-inch diameter looks best on a car this size, so I’m running 195/75R14 Firestone Winterforce snow tires.

It happens that I had easy access to 14-inch Ford Maverick wheels, which have the same four-lug bolt pattern as a Corvair, but a slightly smaller center hole. I had our friendly local machine shop open them up for me and used ’59 Chevy dog-dish hubcaps, but a more straightforward approach would be to grab a set of 14-inch aftermarket four-lug wheels (and matching ‘56 Chevrolet-style hubcaps) from someone like Wheel Vintiques.

One caveat here is that at extremes of suspension deflection while the wheels are turned, they sometimes catch the fender lip—hence the recommendation to raise the suspension slightly. Otherwise, 185/75R14 tires might be the ticket to avoid interference.

​Engine

Although the ad says otherwise, according to the crossed-flags badge on the decklid, this car has the 102-hp Super Turbo Air engine. Like all ’61-’63 Corvair engines, this is a 145-cu.in. boxer six. For 1964, Chevrolet stroked the 145 out to 164 cu.in., raising the formerly 102-hp engine’s output to 110 horsepower. The 102 is a good engine, but the 110 is an absolute stalwart.

I’ve already sought out a 110. Mine’s a ’65-vintage unit. A ’64 engine would be even better because it would come a lot closer to being a drop-in swap to the ’62 engine bay. Installing the later engine requires some parts shuffling—and a few ’64-only pieces—but is doable.

Alternately, I suppose you could have the 102 rebuilt with the 110 crankshaft inside; making a 110 completely disguised as a 102 save for the telltale harmonic balancer.

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How the 1928-1931 Ford Model A started the entire auto restoration hobby – David Conwill @Hemmings

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It’s the car that put a wrench in many a young enthusiast’s hands

Like a lot of things, auto restoration has antecedents in the pre-World War II era, but is most strongly associated with the postwar period. Brass car enthusiasts were already preserving and fixing those machines by the late ‘30s, but the first thing that most would recognize as the hobby/industry of today really springs out of the post-war DIY movement centered on the 1928-1931 Ford Model A.

Why the Model A? Well, a bunch of reasons…

Background on the A as a new car

What started out as a handsome new car for the masses finished its run as a quality, less-ostentatious, more-affordable car for middle- and upper-class folks who found themselves both strapped for cash themselves and wishing to avoid conspicuous consumption. Image via lov2xlr8

Like the early Mustang, the Model A was a sensation when it first came out in late 1927, and Ford was hard pressed to keep up with the demand. From an engineering standpoint, it was strictly evolutionary, not revolutionary: The chassis, based on transverse leaf springs and solid axles front and rear, was very much like that of the 1909-’27 Ford Model T but with the addition of shock absorbers and front brakes.

Stylistically, the new Ford was patterned after the Lincoln Model L, though today both cars are often confused with the Model T because the subtleties of styling evolution in the late-‘20s/early-‘30s have been lost to the non-enthusiast public over the decades. Regardless, what was perceived as a handsome car in 1929 has endured as a period icon to later generations. It’s also more welcoming to most drivers compared with a Model T, both for the improved chassis and the seemingly more familiar three-speed, floor-shift gearbox—virtually the industry standard by then, though Ford had clung to a 1900s-tech two-speed planetary transmission through the end of Model T production.

To rectify the various perceived shortcomings of the Model T, a huge aftermarket industry had grown up around Ford in the 1910s and ‘20s. It turned its attention to the Model A immediately, though those attentions were severely interrupted by the October 1929 stock market crash (right about the time 1930 Fords arrived in the showroom) and the ensuing Great Depression. The resulting products were memorable, as they were intended to improve upon an already excellent, 40 hp car rather than bring a 20 hp 1909 car up to the present standard, and have been intermittently produced up to the present day

Influence of the A as a used car

From student jalopies like this phaeton seen at the University of North Carolina back in 1940 to the speedy roadsters of the dry lakes and circle tracks, the Ford Model A proved to be a durable and enjoyable used car that remained viable as everyday transportation right through the early ‘50s.Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Basic, stock Fords proved their durability in the Great Depression, and well-used examples are frequently seen in period photographic efforts by the Farm Security Administration, a New Deal Agency that employed many talented photographers to document the plight of rural immigrant families fleeing the Dust Bowl. While the Joad family may have driven a Hudson Super Six in The Grapes of Wrath, far more itinerant working families traveled the U.S.A. in Model A’s held together by optimism and ingenuity.

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Variety of vintage vehicles va-voom up very gravely valleyside – David Conwill @Hemmings

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Jalopy Hillclimb provided an outlet for those dampened by TROG

October 22, 2022, was on everyone’s lips in Wildwood earlier in the month. As The Race of Gentlemen wasn’t unfolding, folks with hopped-up Model As and other sorts of traditional hot rods (that is, the kind that look like they did in the ‘50s and before) were looking for one more place to go fast before weather brought the driving season to a near-complete halt. For those who lived in or near New England, Campton, New Hampshire, was that place.

Held on private land and advertised almost exclusively by word of mouth, the Jalopy Hill Climb started in 2021 more or less on a whim, when Alan Johnston decided to try and get his ’39 Ford pickup to the top of his brother’s mountain/sand-and-gravel pit, which happens to include a steep dirt road and spectacular views of the White Mountains. The flathead-powered ’39 made it and spawned the idea of inviting other cool old (pre-’62) cars to attempt the feat themselves

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This 1939 Ford Deluxe Tudor is streamline moderne goodness that’s ready for the road – David Conwill @Hemmings

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It’s my personal opinion that the 1939 Ford Deluxe—specifically the Tudor two-door sedan body style—is one of the best designs to ever roll out of Dearborn. The pontoon fenders, fastback body, grille that looks like the bow crest of a Blue Riband liner, and even those industrial-looking wide-five wheels are all highly evocative of that moment just before World War II when a lot of 1930s trends reached their zenith. The style came back after the war, sure, but by then they were just placeholders for the futuristic designs everyone knew were on the horizon.

Ford’s 1939 iteration of its 1938-’40 two-door sedan body is the quintessence of the streamlined style of the 1930s and ‘40s. Additions like seatbelts, an electric fan, and an alternator will make modern drivers feel more at home.

This 1939 Ford Deluxe listed for sale on Hemmings.com, nicknamed Ruby by its current owner, retains its original 85-hp, 221-cu.in. flathead V-8; floor-shift three-speed gearbox; and “banjo” rear. It also features a lot of subtle updates to make operation feel safer on modern roads, or as the ad puts it, to make “an excellent ‘driver’” and a “dependable, beautiful car that you can drive and not just show.” In fact, it’s said to be “recently driven on a 1,000-mile trip.”

The 85-hp, 221-cu.in. Ford flathead V-8 was a legend in its day and is still very much up to the task of propelling the 2,900-lb Tudor. The seller says it “cruises nicely all day long at 55 mph.”

The hidden updates, or as we sometimes call “road ready” changes to classic cars, include radial tires that look like stock bias plies; a repaint of the original Garnet Maroon color with two-stage paint; a six-volt alternator and a 12-volt inverter to feed a power port for things like GPS and phone charger; tubular shock absorbers in place of the lever-arm Houdaille units; a rear anti-sway bar; dual exhaust with glasspacks (a great sound for a flathead, it’s worth noting); an electric fuel pump “for back up” controlled by a dashboard switch; LED turn signals and emergency flashers; a manually controlled electric fan on the radiator; sealed-beam headlamps; and a fresh overhaul of the hydraulic brakes (1939 was Ford’s first year for them).

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This 1932 Ford rolling chassis just begs to become an A/V-8. Here’s how I’d build it -David Conwill @Hemmings

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Back in the late 1930s or 1940s, if you wanted a 1932 Ford roadster and couldn’t find or afford one, the next best route was to build your own by buying some other kind of 1932 Ford and a 1928-’31 Ford Model A roadster, dispose of the ’32 body and the Model A chassis, and put the remains together. A lot of people came to prefer the combination of fenderless ’32 chassis and Model A roadster body because the less-massive Model A body wasn’t as unbalanced by the removal of the fenders as the Deuce was—plus the ’32 frame helped make up for the visual loss of the Model A splash aprons.

There aren’t too many unloved ‘32s waiting around these days to have their chassis pirated; likewise, few unclaimed Model A roadster bodies. You can buy reproduction 1932 frame rails, of course, but most people don’t care to go to all the trouble of replicating the details of a stock ’32 chassis when off-the-shelf hardware from the street rod suppliers does the trick. That’s why this rolling ’32 chassis in the classifieds presents a unique opportunity to build a period-correct Deuce-framed A/V-8 with minimal effort.

By 1932, the rod-actuated mechanical Ford brakes had gotten pretty good. Still, the hydraulic system introduced in 1939 and used here in its 1940-’48 form is better supported in today’s aftermarket and understood by the modern enthusiast. It also permits lowering the chassis at some point without me

Surprisingly, this chassis is built around a mint-condition original frame, says the seller, “from an original roadster.” That likely means that roadster is getting a street-rod update. It must have been a nice car to begin with, however, as the ad says the chassis was rebuilt in 2006. It was also upgraded at that time, incorporating a 1934-spec Columbia two-speed rear axle (Ford’s optional overdrive up through 1948); a 1939 Ford transmission; and 1940 Ford (Lockheed)-style 12×2 hydraulic drum brakes.

By 1939, even years of development had created a really pleasant gearbox for the Ford V-8. Slipping one into a ’32 chassis like this is easy.

At least two of those upgrades were actually current 1932 technology—just not at The Rouge. The Columbia was available in contemporary Auburn cars, and the Lockheed brakes were already found on Chrysler products. Columbia axles for the Ford were a spiritual successor to the Ruckstell two-speed axles used in Ford Model Ts. The Columbia was controlled by vacuum, rather than mechanical linkage, however.

You’ve heard the line in the song about “twin pipes and a Columbia butt?” This is the Columbia. It’s a vacuum-actuated two-speed unit that was optional equipment in Auburns

The ’39 transmission is really a development of the 1932 transmission. The Model A transmission notoriously does not feature synchromesh, making up and down shifting a more complicated process and considered by some folks to be a step backward from the simple pedal-controlled transmission of the Model T. For 1932, Ford integrated synchronizers on second and third gear. The 1939 transmission has a more highly developed shifter and even better synchronizers than earlier units.

All that means that this chassis is already pretty much state of the art for 1940, aside from the Tacoma Cream 18-inch wheels—but those and their big sugar-donut whites are so nice looking, I think I’d leave them and even build the car around them. If they were on a roadster, then The Auto Color Library indicates it was originally painted Medium Lustre Black or Dearborn Blue.

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John Bugas, the man who cleaned Ford of its gangster element – David Conwill @Hemmings

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The History of Ford Motor Company is filled with larger-than-life figures, starting with the founder himself and continuing right up through Lee Iacocca. So many characters, as it happens, have cropped up in Dearborn history that some have been unfortunately overlooked to a great extent. John Bugas, better known as Jack, was one of them.

Bugas was one of 10 children born to Austro-Hungarian immigrant Andrej Bugos, who adopted the name Andrew Bugas and served six terms in the Wyoming State Legislature. In addition to politics, Andrew was a serial entrepreneur and a rancher. The family ranch, called Eagle’s Nest, would be John Bugas’ home from shortly after his birth in 1908 until he enrolled in the University of Wyoming.

In college, Bugas was an outstanding athlete. He studied law and supported himself by working jobs as diverse as forest ranger and trucker. Upon graduation, in 1934, he went to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It was the height of the Public Enemies era, and the brave and capable Bugas was a valued asset to the Bureau. In 1938, he was appointed to head the Detroit office. There he would liaison with the auto industry, something the federal government was already viewing as a strategic asset as totalitarian regimes in Europe and the Far East made no secret of their territorial ambitions.

Even as he proved adept at fighting more mundane crimes like kidnapping and bank robbery, Bugas was particularly renowned for the work he did protecting Detroit’s defense plants from espionage. He broke up a Nazi spy ring centered on Canadian socialite “Countess” Grace Dineen, and could boast that no sabotage occurred in the Arsenal of Democracy while he was in charge.

Naturally, Bugas met many of the Motor City’s leading lights at this time. Henry Ford, apparently still fearing that his grandchildren might be kidnapped like the unfortunate Charles Lindbergh Jr., hired away Bugas to work under the notorious Harry Bennett, head of Ford’s euphemistically named Service Department— essentially, a private army answerable only to Henry.

The tough westerner was not overawed by the ex-boxer to whom Henry was so inexplicably devoted, but had been impressed with the cultured, sensitive Edsel, whom he had met before Edsel’s untimely death in 1943. A self-described “Edsel loyalist,” Bugas determined to carry out the younger Ford’s wishes rather than those of the thuggish Bennett.

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This 1929 Durant speedster is nearly perfect, but I’d still make a few changes. Here’s how I’d build it. – David Conwill @Hemmings

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I noticed recently that baquets like this 1929 Durant Rugby were starting to show up in the Hemmings Classifieds. I’ve been aware of them for a few years now and it’s exciting they seem to finally be showing up in the U.S. market.

That enormous, brass fuel tank—plus all the rivets—evokes racing cars of an earlier era than the late ‘20s. This seems to a blend of several eras of pre-war motorsport into one romantic whole capable of going long distances through inhospitable Patagonia.

What’s a baquet, you say? Well, it literally means “bucket” or “tub” in a few different romance languages, but the connotation is pretty far from the kinds of cars those words conjure in English. Near as I can determine, the baquet style comes from Argentina (not coincidentally, home of those top-notch Pur Sang replicas of pre-war Bugatti and Alfa Romeo icons) and emulates the kind of rough-and-ready speedster build that was popular there in the 1930s, about the time that Grand Prix legend Juan Manuel Fangio was getting his start in a Model A baquet temporarily built from a borrowed Buenos Aries taxi.

The modern baquets are in exactly that spirit of making something glamorous and romantic out of something decidedly utilitarian. That’s fitting, as the Rugby line was actually the export nameplate for the car known in the United States as the Star—a mass-produced, low-priced competitor to the Ford Model T from 1922 to 1927. It never built the kind of volume it needed to go head to head with Ford but was a moderate success most notable for being part of GM-founder Billy Durant’s third (and final) venture into automaking.

Somebody else owned the Star brand in Great Britain, so suitable “Rugby” radiator badges were worked up and the product went forth under an assumed name. There was a Star Six (and corresponding Rugby Six), starting in 1926, when the Star was advertised as “the world’s lowest-price six,” and it looked a lot like the Four but with a 40-hp flathead six and accompanying longer hood. In the final two years of production, 1928 and 1929, there was no Star to use as a basis, so instead Durant’s Star replacement the Durant 4 was slipped behind the Rugby badge.

Jeep people aren’t the only ones who get to drive around with no doors in nice weather. This is more like a giant motorcycle than a car. Note the floor shifter setup—indicative of a side-shift transmission from a ‘40s-or-later car.

That brings us to this “1929” Rugby for sale in the Netherlands (but, says the ad, shipped “to our New Jersey warehouse” for $1,800 plus a 3-percent import duty). They don’t say it, but I virtually guarantee this car came from Argentina where it ran or was constructed to emulate the cars that run in that country’s Mille Miglia Rally through the rugged landscape of Patagonia. I put 1929 in quotes because it’s a speedster and perhaps does a good emulating of what a Rugby-based speedster built in 1929 might have looked like, but from the start (literally, the radiator) it looks more like a the original, 1924-‘27 Star-based Rugbies, rather than the Durant-based Rugby of 1928-‘29.

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Forties technology would make for a perfect 1928 Ford Model A shop truck. Here’s how I’d build it – David Conwill @Hemmings

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A Ford Model A roadster pickup like this 1928 Ford Model A roadster pickup (“Open Cab Pickup”) in the Hemmings Classifieds would make a great shop truck or long-distance hauler with just a few period upgrades.

This one caught my attention because it’s nearly identical to the one we have in the Sibley which was once dragged to TROG. I saw it there for the first time, and I’ve harbored ambitions about turning that little pickup into something with a bit of 1940s flavor ever since. Talking to Jeff Koch about his plans for his family’s 1931 coupe re-energized my appreciation for Ford’s 1928-’31 masterpiece and the myriad ways people have found to improve them since. Jeff wants to walk the line between hot rodding and touring using some newer equipment, but left to my own devices, I’d always hew closer to how Ford developed its cars from 1928 to 1948. It’s a good lesson for making any ’20s car a better driver without sacrificing the vintage experience.

Although the Hemmings pickup is the one I see most often, any ’28 or ’29 would fit the bill. It’s mere coincidence that this one is also a Commercial Green (Rock Moss Green? Something like that) 1928 model. The Hemmings truck is somewhat rarer as it is an early 1928 with the slightly nicer looking splash aprons and the hand brake near the door, Model T-style. Supposedly, Pennsylvania didn’t permit the early design, hexing a big potential market for Ford. I seem to recall the objection was that the hand brake was used to set the rear-wheel service brakes, but PA required separate systems for emergency/parking brakes and service brakes.

No matter, all those interesting old parts, new design or old, could be removed and preserved someplace after a proper pickling/mothballing. In their place would go the best of early 1940s technology, starting with 12 x 2-inch hydraulic drum brakes, front and rear. Up front, I’d go with new Lincoln-style units from Bass Kustom and in back, Ford-type brakes, as they’re somewhat easier to retrofit to an early axle. The Lincoln units have the advantage that Ford chose to license Bendix’s self-energizing technology for its up-market brand, whereas regular Ford and Mercury cars stuck with the Chrysler-Lockheed type through 1948.

The original axles and Houdaille shocks, if in good condition (and the listing says the little pickup has only “88 miles since completion” of a “complete frame-off restoration,” so they ought to be) can stay. If not, there’s always longtime Hemmings advertiser Apple Hydraulics. If my planned tires (which I address below) look a little lost under the fenders, a reverse-eye front spring is a good way to get the nose down slightly without resorting to dropping the front axle

Four-million Ford owners can’t be wrong. The 200.5-cu.in. Model A four-cylinder was a solid, dependable unit that saw millions through the Depression and World War II. The basic design stayed in production for years and fitting one with pieces developed in the Thirties and Forties improves them further still.

I’d ideally give this shop truck a touring-grade Model A engine with a balanced crank and pressurized oiling, but retain the poured bearings. Some of those upgrades may already be present on what is supposed to be a fresh, low-mileage engine, but if not, it would be a good canvas to add them. With a solid foundation to rely on, I’d add performance with a Model A police-service 5.5:1 compression cylinder head (marked with a cast-in B; actual Model B engines got heads marked with “C.” Very confusing) or a cast-iron Winfield head for as close as I could get to 6:1 compression (poured bearings get cranky when you go higher than that); single downdraft carburetor on an aftermarket intakeModel B camshaft and either a Ford Model B distributor or the upgrade unit produced by Mallory for many years in place of the manual-advance Model A unit; and the Duke Hallock-designed exhaust header I had wanted for my late, lamented Model T.

You could probably run this fairly mild engine against the original un-synchronized three-speed, but it would really up the ease of driving if you followed Ford’s route and adapted a V-8 gearbox with synchronizers on second and third gears. The 1932-‘34 Ford Model B used a trans behind its 50hp four-cylinder that was internally the same as the V-8 models but used a different case. Now, you can put any 1932-’48 Ford passenger-car transmission or 1932-’52 light-truck three-speed behind a Model A engine using an adaptor from Cling’s. The pinnacle of early Ford V-8 transmission technology is widely agreed to be the nice-shifting ’39-’52 Ford floor-shift three-speed (exclusive to trucks from 1940-on) containing ’46-’48 Ford passenger-car or close-ratio Lincoln-Zephyr gears in order to mate with the enclosed driveline.

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This dilapidated 1935 Packard 120 isn’t played out; it just needs a new life in keeping with its appearance. Here’s how I’d build it. – David Conwill

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It’s lived a rough life. Are parts-car status or an expensive back-to-stock restoration the only prospects for this 1935 Packard 120?

The Packard 120 series was a direct response to Packard’s falling fortunes in the 1930s and they were great cars. As the Great Depression wore on, the traditional luxury market softened to the point where it couldn’t support a company of Packard’s size. Competitors like Peerless and Pierce-Arrow had the same problem and soon disappeared. Cadillac, meanwhile, had La Salle and the entirety of the General Motors operation to make up for slow sales of its prestige machines.

Rather than introduce a new volume line to complement its traditional offerings (as it would later try to do in the ‘50s with the Clipper name), Packard instead introduced the 120 with Packard badging but a price that started $1,405 below the least-expensive standard Eight. A fairer comparison might be this $1,095 five-passenger Touring Sedan (the trunk-back body no. 892, with rear quarter windows; rather than the no. 893 flat-back Sedan or the 896 Club Sedan with its blind quarters) with the standard Eight five-passenger Sedan, which was priced at $2,385 on a 127-inch wheelbase or $2,585 on a 134-inch wheelbase.

The 1930s middle-class demeanor of the Touring Sedan is fine, but the forest-seasoned example for sale would be fun with a treatment that’s a cross between a Volvo Sugga and a Yellowstone bus.

That meant a 120 Touring Sedan like this one undercut not only the pricier Packards, but also the $1,295 LaSalle four-door sedan; the $1,190 Buick Series 50; the $1,165 Nash Advanced Eight; and the $1,127 Hudson Custom Eight Touring Sedan. Pricing was essentially on par with eight-cylinder Auburn models and was even cheap enough it might have stolen away some prospective Chrysler customers.

Possibly working to the 120’s advantage was not just the Packard badge, but the state-of-the-art engineering that had gone into developing the new line. Big Packards in 1935 still used solid front axles and mechanical brakes, but the 120 has an independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes. The 120 also used Packard’s traditional straight-eight powerplant, but in a scaled-down version utilizing a one-piece cylinder block and crankcase. The 256-cu.in. flathead engine made 110 hp at 3,850 RPM: Compare that with the 320-cu.in. engine in the standard Eight putting out 130 hp at 3,200 rpm and bolted into a chassis weighing at least 1,200 pounds more than the 120 and it’s easy to see why the new, budget-minded Packard sold like hotcakes in its first year. Production of 24,995 One Twenties eclipsed the fewer than 7,000 other Packards built for 1935.

The White Model 706 was a capable intercity and transit bus that made its mark on history through an open-top version used in the national parks.

What all that means for this car is that if you want a 120 to recreate that 1935 experience, you might be better off to look elsewhere. Despite the 120’s great history and Packard build quality, fully restored, this would be not quite a $40,000 car; and it would be easy to spend that or more bringing it back to Day One condition.

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